Saturday, May 10, 2008

Footballing Schadenfreude Part 2

The sadness of Ireland's failure yet again to reach a major championship finals was deepened by England's failure to make as well, if only because it deprived Irish football fans of at least three teams to support in the final stages. Well, the English had to fall at some hurdle, didn't they? Nothing against the English in general but it is always a laugh to see their imperiously smug and chauvinistic footballing media get their comeuppance. Especially as nowadays, in the broadcast media at least, English football coverage is just so awful. I seem to recall as recently as France 98, the Beeb still mounting a worthwhile panel of experts but it has deteriorated seriously since then. The panel has been a complaisant old boy's club of chummy ex-pros that pull every punch going especially regarding their own country's team, the interjections of Johann Cruyff and Martin O'Neill providing the only light, or dissent. Marina Hyde, in a Guardian piece the other day, half-jokingly suggests that the Beeb lighten up the match coverage with the addition of Terry Wogan. Not a bad idea, really.

Of course, one thing that RTÉ beats the Beeb, and probably any other channel in the English-speaking world, hands down on is their football coverage. Giles, Dunphy and Brady may have a level of telegenism to make most television executives apoplectic but their match analysis is usually spot on and is sharpened by their candour. Brady apart, none of them have close links remaining with top-flight football in Britain, so they're not afraid to step on anyone's toes. The friction between Dunphy and Brady (which is likely to get even more interesting is things turn bad for Ireland under Trappatoni) has also provided some great TV moments. Not all the panel members over the years have been able to keep up (I'm thinking mainly of Frank Stapleton and Andy Townsend) but there have been memorable bruisers too, such as John Toshack, Pat Crerand and Joe Kinnear. Graham Souness, after an innocuous start, and some brutal hazing at the hands of Giles and Dunphy, is similarly beginning to come up to speed.

Here's a recent example of vintage Giles, Dunphy and Brady, laying into Cristian Ronaldo after Manchester United's semi-final first leg against Barcelona:

Ireland and England are currently pretty much at level-pegging in the scale of footballing infamy, having danced almost in perfect step over the past couple of years, both appointing bumbling managers of negligible experience, resulting in disaster and then appointing Italian proponents of dull, old-fashioned calcio as their replacements. Never before have Irish and English football fans identified so closely with one another. Another thing I found on YouTube was this famous match between the two when Ireland became the first non-British team to defeat the Sassenachs on home soil, at Goodison in 1949. Thrilling stuff, though I don't know who that team 'Eyy-wa' whom the Pathé commentator periodically mentions, are.

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Thelonius said...

I think Bill O'Herlihy as their foil is an essential ingredient the fascination that Giles and Dunphy exercise on me. They're such a pair of self-righteous wankers. Without Bill's voice of moderation they'd be far too toxic altogether.

John said...

Great post. Love the Dunphy, Giles, Souness/Brady combinations, although O'Herlihy irritates me with some of his daft comments that make me wonder if he's trying to provoke or is genuinely ignorant. But what's most striking about this panel in contrast to the panels on the various English channels is their capacity to defend whatever case they make for their criticism or praise. Their depth of understanding of the game and the level of argumentation are far superior to the shite you hear on the BBC, even when they're just trying to be controversial.

Mind you, I can never take Kenny Cunningham seriously when he's on because I'm always watching the acrobatics of his eyebrows.